What is Fitness? Part 2

In Part 1, we talked about the the benefits of being physically fit, what that actually means, and we discussed the 1st component of physical fitness which is cardiovascular fitness. If you missed that, make sure to catch it here.

In part 2, I will cover the 2nd and 3rd components of physical fitness and that’s Muscular Fitness and Flexibility.

Many skip one or more of the 3 components (I know when I was younger, I hated to stretch. I thought it was so boring. But when I got older, I wished I had started much earlier), but if you want to build or maintain fitness for health and longevity, each component is equally important. So, don’t skimp 🙂.

2 ) Muscular Fitness 

Muscle Fitness includes increasing muscular strength which is your ability to move and lift objects
and increasing muscle endurance which is how long you can use your muscles before they fatigue.

Benefits:

  • Allows you to perform movements and activities that require power without getting tired
  • Helps you maintain a healthy body weight by burning calories and increasing your metabolism
  • Shown to increase energy levels
  • Promotes healthy sleep patterns
  • Helps to build strong, healthier muscles and bones. This helps to develop good posture, relieve back pain, and protect your joints
  • Builds more stability, balance, and flexibility, making injuries and falls less likely
  • Improves circulation in the limbs
  • Makes everyday chores and tasks easier. Training muscular endurance will increase your stamina — you’ll have more energy to go from your job to playing with your kids, for example
  • Builds muscle tone for a better appearance
  • Shown to improve mood and brain health

Exercises include:  

  • Resistance Training (exercises using external weights such as dumbbells, weight machines, resistance bands, and even soup cans). 
  • Calisthenics (exercises using only your bodyweight such as push ups, jumping jacks, squats, or walking lunges).

Recommended Guidelines for Health-Related Muscular Fitness

  • Full body work-out 2x-3x a week, doing 8-10 exercises, 8-12 repetitions of each exercise.
  • For building muscular endurance, increase your repetitions to 12-15.

Other options are:

  • You can also split up your upper body and lower body and work them on separate days. 
  • To balance out muscular strength and muscular endurance, add both resistance exercises and calisthenics into your workouts.

Here are some exercises you might want to include in your next workout:

Lower Body:

Squats

Hamstring curls

Leg curls

Walking lunges

Calf raises

Upper Body:

Pull down

Rows

Chest press

Shoulder Press

Bicep curls

Tricep Dips

Finish with ab work such as:

Crunches

Bicycles

Plank holds

   3) Flexibility

  

The 3rd component to physical fitness is flexibility which is having the ability to move your joints and muscles freely through a wide range of motion.

Benefits include

  • Decreases risk of injuries
  • Improves circulation and blood flow
  • Keeps muscles and joints limber
  • Improves your performance in physical activities
  • Improves posture
  • helps to heal and prevent back pain due to muscle stiffness
  • Calms the mind
  • Reduces stress
  • Helps in reducing tension headaches

Exercises include:

  • Pre and post work-out stretching
  • Yoga
  • Pilates

 

Recommended Guidelines for Health-Related Flexibility

  • Pre-workout stretch: Pre-workout stretching prepares your muscles for movement. The best type of stretching for your pre-workout stretch is Dynamic stretching which is active movements that cause your muscles to stretch, but the stretch is not held in the end position. Do before any workout session. Allow for approx. 1-2 mins. pre-workout.
  • Post-workout stretch is where you’ll help build your flexibility and help prevent muscle soreness or injury. The best type of stretching here is Static stretching where you’ll hold a stretch between 10-30 seconds. Allow for approx. 5-10 mins. post-workout.
  • On days when you aren’t exercising, still plan to schedule at least 5 to 10 minutes of time for stretching. This can help improve flexibility and reduce muscle tightness and pain.
  • Don’t go into your stretches cold. Cold muscles are not as pliable, which makes stretching a lot more difficult. The best time to stretch is after you work out, but if you’re not exercising before performing your stretches, warm up for 5 to 10 minutes with some light cardio, such as walking or jogging.
  • When stretching, focus on the major areas of your body that help with mobility, such as your calves, hamstrings, hip flexors, and quadriceps.
  • For upper-body relief, try moves that stretch the shoulders, neck, and lower back.
  • If working at a desk, make sure to take a stretch break every hour or so. Just standing up and stretching your body long, from head to toe, can do wonders for your body and mind.
  • Add in some longer stretching sessions through Yoga or Pilates 1-2x a week.

Tips:

  • Never bounce when stretching. Use slow and controlled motions.
  • Never force a stretch. Stretching should feel mildly uncomfortable, but never painful.
  • Breathe into the stretch. Deep breathing helps relax your body and allows for better range of motion.
  • Don’t overdo it! Overstretching can cause injury to muscles and ligaments.
  • Never compare yourself to anyone else. If taking a yoga class, keep your focus on how you feel not on how you look or how you compare with others.

How to get started

There you have it – the 3 Components of Physical Fitness. Now if this is all new to you and you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed, no worries. What I suggest to my clients, and even what I do myself when I’m getting back back into a fitness routine after a sickness or time off, is to take baby steps. None of this has to be started all at once. Here’s a sample plan:

  • Month 1: start by adding in your cardio exercise.
  • Month 2: add in a day of muscular strengthening/endurance training
  • Month 3: add in a yoga class.
  • Continue to add in more time/ additional days as YOU feel ready. What you want to think about here is building healthy habits that you can and will stick with. Being consistent is key to building long-lasting physical fitness and health!
  • And remember to try new things and do what you enjoy! Do what brings you pleasure and fun!
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